Hunger strikes and the fiscal outlook

Politics on TV, Dec. 18: In which Evan Solomon says 'game changer' every seven words

Message of the day

“There is a paradigm shift happening with First Nations youth.”

Hot Topics

  1. First Nations #Idlenomore protests
  2. Fiscal outlook
  3. The cost of answering questions

Questions not answered

  • Will Harper meet with Chief Theresa Spence?

First Nations:

Power & Politics had an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence from her hunger strike, followed by an interview with Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Neepinak. Neepinak said that there are systemic issues that the government refuses to address, citing issues like the underfunding of education, while the minister announces that there’s parity in funding. Neepinak said that the hunger strike cuts through the politics, and creates a paradigm shift being pushed by the youth, who are coming of age in the context of the constitution, where Section 35 is no longer acceptable. Spence has stipulated that she won’t meet with the minister – only with Harper and/or the Governor General.

Fiscal outlook:

Power Play had an interview with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who said that the government is on track to eliminate the deficit, assuming there are no external shocks like the “fiscal cliff.” Flaherty’s biggest worry is that Q1 will be slow in the US, which means that we will have to adjust our own figures, but he still plans on eliminating the deficit without raising taxes. Flaherty said that enhancing CPP is more of a long-term project, and that one of his biggest concerns is that young people aren’t able to find jobs.

Don Martin then spoke with former TD Bank Chief Economist Don Drummond, who immediately disabused the notion that he might be in the running for Mark Carney’s job and that there is anything to the Carney story in the media. On the economic forecast, Drummond said that the capital that people think companies are sitting on is largely broken up and isn’t able to come back, and that a two percent growth rate is something we need to get used to. Drummond says that there will likely be a pullback in housing prices in 2013, but that it probably won’t be as bad as in places like Spain.

Cost of questions:

After Conservative MP Brian Jean asked how much it costs to answer Order Paper questions – $1.2 million over three months – and Evan Solomon asked an MP Panel of Kellie Leitch, Andrew Cash and John McCallum to weigh in. Leitch said the government is always focused on open debate and encourages people to ask questions, but that some questions put on Order Paper are long and costly, and that it was important to be reasonable in the questions being asked. Cash said that questions are important for the functioning of Parliament, and that the government has shut down most of the avenues for getting answers. McCallum said the $1.2 million figure inflated the costs, that it assumes high salaries for civil servants and that it takes six weeks instead of six hours.

On P&P’s Power Panel, Chris Hall said that the Conservatives must feel that they will be in government forever since it’s a tool they used while in opposition. Robin MacLachlan said that Parliament costs money, and that Order Paper questions are an important function of that. Tom Flanagan said the opposition is simply attacking a backbencher for putting information on the table, while Amanda Alvaro said that it’s a bit of a joke, and that the next step will be the government feeling it’s a personal inconvenience to attend Question Period.

On Power Play’s journalists panel of Stephanie Levitz and Joël-Denis Bellavance, Levitz said that she is curious as to what is included in those costs considering how long it takes any government department to answer questions these days. Bellavance said that because it’s Question Period and not “answer period,” Order Paper questions are one area where the government is obligated by law to answer.


Power Play chose Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page as the second of their “Power Players” of the year. Page said that over the past five years, nobody could have seen some of the context that his office has found itself in, with the financial slowdown and fighter jet purchases. Page said that the legal step of a reference on the office’s mandate is to ensure that his successor has clarity, and he hopes it will be rendered before his term is up. Page said that the fact that there was a set of numbers in the department that wasn’t released to Parliament was one of the biggest problems with the F-35 process.

Power & Politics chose the changing face of opposition – in particular Thomas Mulcair and Elizabeth May – as their second “Game Changer” of 2012. First up was May, who says that she hopes that she is changing the disillusionment that Canadians have with democracy, and that they will insist that certain things – like omnibus legislation – are not acceptable. In discussing Mulcair’s leadership of the Official Opposition, Megan Leslie said that Mulcair taking command on the first day as leader was really where the change happened, and he was able to shape the direction of the party.

P&P’s Power Panel gave their thoughts on the “Game Changers,” where Hall said that it’s difficult measure who is the most effective opposition leader, and while Mulcair was able to keep his caucus disciplined, Bob Rae was the only leader to get Harper to make any concessions so he chose him. MacLachlan said that Mulcair has been able to define himself before Harper could define him. Alvaro disputed that, and said that because there was no game changing, it showed that Mulcair wasn’t effective, whereas profile and popularity has shifted to contenders like Trudeau. Flanagan said that because of the majority situation and no one is in a kingmaker position, everyone is treading water until there is certainty as to who the Liberal leader will be.

Worth Noting:

  • CTV’s Paul Bliss gave an update on the Ontario Liberal leadership race, as well as what is happening with the province’s teacher’s strike.
  • Antonia Maioni of McGill University said that the Charbonneau Commission will likely have to last longer than another year, and that there will likely be an election in the next year, which the Commission will be the backdrop of.
  • Paul Journet of La Presse said that the Charbonneau Commission will likely start reaching into provincial ranks while the provincial Liberals have their leadership convention, which may forestall a new election for a while yet.
  • Stephanie Levitz suspects that Mark Carney will get a much more vigorous grilling from British MPs and the press, while Joël-Denis Bellavance suspected that the British press will be waiting for his next faux-pas.
  • Australian High Commissioner Louise Hand was profiled as part of Power Play’s “Embassy Row” feature, and spoke about how wine is now Australia’s biggest export to Canada, and that there is an enormous amount of Canadian superannuation in Australia.
  • Carleton professor Ian Lee said that union transparency is a good thing, and recalled the sunshine list in Ontario that was pushed by unions so that they could have more leverage in bargaining.
  • CAW economist Jim Stanford said that unions are non-profit agencies who don’t get government money, and that the deductions of union dues are the same as investors deducting their own expenses.

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